US pledges to reduce Iraq troops as tensions ease
The United States said on June 11 it would reduce troops in Iraq in the coming months as friction between the two countries eased under a new U.S.-friendly premier in Baghdad.
The United States also promised support to prop up the struggling Iraqi economy as the two nations held their first strategic dialogue in more than a decade.
Tensions skyrocketed following a U.S. strike on Baghdad in January that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, with lawmakers in Baghdad demanding the expulsion of the roughly 5,200 U.S. troops in the country.
President Donald Trump responded by threatening crippling sanctions and, according to U.S. military sources, Washington began planning a vast bombing spree against groups blamed for the rockets.
In a joint statement, the United States said that the reason for its military's return to Iraq in 2014 -- defeating extremists from the Islamic State group -- had made major headway.
"The two countries recognized that in light of significant progress towards eliminating the ISIS threat, over the coming months the U.S. would continue reducing forces from Iraq," a joint statement said.
"The United States reiterated that it does not seek nor request permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq."
The coalition has already consolidated to just three bases in recent months, down from a dozen.
The joint statement, hashed out ahead of time, did not give figures and Thursday's dialogue was brief, with David Schenker, the top U.S. diplomat for the Middle East, telling reporters the delegations did not discuss a timeline for reducing troops.
Due to coronavirus travel restrictions, top-level talks expected to take place in Baghdad were...